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review 2019-09-01 12:15
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde,Inga Moore

This short-story by Oscar Wilde was charming and not in the least bit scary. I will say, however, that it’s amongst one of my least favourite works of his. The ending made me smile, though, and elevated it for me.

 

It’s likely that most people have read this or heard a lot about it, so I won’t go into too much detail. The story revolves around a family who buy a house that’s in possession of a ghost. The story opens up with the family examining a blood stain on the carpet in one of the rooms that’s been there for years and refuses to give in to cleaning. A member of the family cleans it up and so begins what I believed to be a sinister tale about a vengeful ghost. However, I was very wrong. This story if full of levity and humour and of course Wilde’s trademark observation.

 

It’s hard to thoroughly connect with a short story as it is, by definition, short. I thought this one was longer than it was and was surprised to find I was nearly finished having only read for a brief time.

 

The story wasn’t so much about a ghost, but more the seriousness with which we understand life. Wilde loved to poke fun and he does it here again, but at humanity in general, rather than the Victorian middle classes. In this regard it shined in its objective.

 

I read this for this square:  

 

 

 

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review 2019-01-28 04:36
The Complete Short Stories by Oscar Wilde
The Complete Short Stories (Oxford World's Classics) - Oscar Wilde

DESCRIPTION:

"Oscar Wilde was already famous as a brilliant wit and raconteur when he first began to publish his short stories in the late 1880s. Admired by George Orwell and W. B. Yeats, the stories include poignant fairy-tales such as "The Happy Prince" and "The Selfish Giant," the extravagant comedy of "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" and "The Canterville Ghost," and the daring narrative experiments of "The Portrait of Mr. W. H.," Wilde's fictional investigation into the identity of the dedicatee of Shakespeare's sonnets. John Sloan's Introduction argues for Wilde's originality and literary achievement as a short-story writer, emphasizing his literary skill and sophistication, and arguing for the centrality of Wilde's shorter fiction in his literary career. The collection includes a useful and up-to-date bibliography and extensive and helpful explanatory notes, and an Appendix reprints an important passage from the book-length version of "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." on the Neo-Platonic ideal of friendship between men, an important key to the short story's meaning."

 

______________________________

REVIEW:

 

Mixed bag.  Some of the stories were cute or entertaining, others were a miss for me.

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review 2018-12-23 22:01
24 Festive Tasks: My Final Books (Doors 16, 17 and 19 -- Human Rights Day, St. Lucia's Day, and Festivus)
A Christmas Guest - Anne Perry,Terrence Hardiman
Skandinavische Weihnachten: Die schönsten Geschichten von Sven Nordqvist, Hans Christian Andersen, Selma Lagerlöf u.a. - Hans Christian Andersen,Selma Lagerlöf,Various Authors,Sven Nordqvist,Josef Tratnik,Dirk Bach,Jens Wawrczeck
A Woman of No Importance - Full Cast,Oscar Wilde
Model Millionaire - David Timson,Oscar Wilde


Anne Perry: A Christmas Guest

The third book in Anne Perry's series of Christmas novellas, each one of which has as their protagonist one of the supporting characters from Perry's main series (William Monk, and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt).  This installment's starring role goes to Charlotte Pitt's vinegar-tongued grandmother, who -- like another remote relative, recently returned to England after having spent most of her adult life living in the Middle East -- finds herself shunted onto Charlotte and her husband Thomas at short notice, because the family with whom she had been planning to spend the holidays have made other plans.  While Grandma pretends to despise her widely-traveled fellow guest, secretly she develops a considerable amount of respect for her, so when the lady is unexpetedly found dead, grandma takes it upon herself to seek out the people who had unloaded her on the Pitt household; convinced that something untoward is afoot.

 

As Perry's Christmas novellas go, this is one of my favorite installments to date, and i loved seeing it told, for once, not from the point of view of an easily likeable character, but from that of Grandma, who is a major pain in the neck to others (even though you'd have to be blind not to recognize from the word "go" that her acerbic tongue and pretensions are merely part of her personal armour).  I also wondered whether the murder victim's character might have been inspired by pioneering women travelers like Gertrude Bell, even if the story is set a few decades earlier than Bell's actual life.  I had issues with a couple of minor aspects of the plot (and characters / behaviour), but they didn't intrude enough to seriously impinge on my enjoyment of the story.  And since Grandma, for all her overblown pretenses, is certainly a strong woman character -- which she shows, not least, by eventually admitting to her own fallibilities -- I am counting this book towards the Human Rights Day square of 24 Festive Tasks.

 

 

 
Various Authors: Skandinavische Weihnachten

A charming anthology of Christmas short stories and poems from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland; chiefly geared towards children, but more than enjoyable by readers and listeners of all ages and generations.  I knew some of the entries (no Scandinavian Christmas anthology without Andersen's Little Match Girl, I suppose), but many of the stories were new to me, and they made for delightful listening on this 4th weekend of Advent. -- Set in Scandinavia, and thus I'm using it as my book for the St. Lucia's Day square.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: A Woman of No Importance

Wilde's second play; an acerbic take on the narrowness of fin de siècle English morality; or more particularly, supremely hypocritical perceptions of women's role in society.  Unlike in Wilde's later plays, the beginning comes across as a bit of an over-indulgence in the author's own clever wit, with a veritable fireworks of sparkling onelines and repartees following in quick succession without greatly advancing the plot (which is what earns the piece the subtractions in my star ratings -- it's the perfect example of too much of a good thing); but once the plot and the dialogue centers on the opposing protagonists, it quickly finds its feet. -- As Festivus books go, it's rather on the dark side, but it's a satire nevertheless, so I'm counting it for that square ... and though (unusually for Wilde) the last line is telegraphed a mile and a half in advance, I nevertheless enjoyed saying it along with the play's heroine from all my heart.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: Model Millionaire

My encore enjoyment to follow up A Woman of No Importance; a story that couldn't be any more different in tone and intent -- the tale of a gentleman who believes he has done a kindness to a raggedy beggar modelling for his artist friend ... only to find that he could not possibly have been any more mistaken, and that in fact it is he who is ultimately at the receiving end of an unexpected kindness.

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review 2018-11-17 06:32
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays - Oscar Wilde

It´s a short play, so I`m not going to give a synopsis of the book. Besides, the story is completely bonkers and I wouldn´t even know where to begin in explaining the plot.

 

However, what  I´m going to tell you is that this play is utterly delightful. The dialogue is amazing, Lady Bracknell is a hoot (as are the other characters) and I loved every single page of it.

 

I´ve read The Importance of Being Earnest for the Festivus square (read any comedy, parody or satire) and it´s been a perfect read for this square.

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review 2018-10-27 00:10
The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde
The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde - Oscar Wilde,Rupert Hart-Davis,Merlin Holland

Before I go into why I loved this book, I should make clear that I have not read the entire correspondence that is contained in this book - this is a 1230-page volume!

I have mostly browsed correspondence and opened the book at random to read whatever letter such method revealed to me. However, there were letters that were of particular interest to me and that caused me to pick up the book in the first place, such as Wilde's correspondence to Lord Queensberry and the letters relating to his trial and imprisonment.

 

What I have found with this wonderful book is that:

 

- Wilde was a humorous and warm correspondent. There are several letters in this collection that were to unidentified correspondents who seemed to be members of the reading or theatre-going public, who just decided to write to him. Wilde evidently did not know these people, and yet, he still answered the letters in manner that felt engaged with whatever it was that the senders had asked him. 

 

- Wilde had a LOT of social engagements and used them negotiate advances on plays and writings. At least, much of the correspondence seems about that - not just for himself but also for other writers, actors, and producers.

 

- The letters to Bosie's mother show a genuine, deep concern of Wilde's over Alfred's well-being. The both may have been toxic for each other (Wilde and Bosie, I mean), but from the letters to Bosie's mother, it appears Wilde did seek help when he feared Bosie to be in danger of harming himself. (The book doesn't contain the answers to his letters, so I do not know whether Bosie's mother acknowledged Wilde's concerns.)

 

- Letter to Bosie that Wilde wrote from Reading Gaol which is commonly published as De Profundis is contained in this volume also, and it was extraordinary to see the letter in the context of the other correspondence of the same time, in which Wilde mostly tried to settle his affairs, asking for debts to be paid following the trial. For whatever image we may have of Wilde as the flamboyant bon vivant, he was serious about settling debts and not owing people dues. 

Of course, Wilde's imprisonment didn't just deprive him of his freedom, he also lost most of his contacts and some of his business partners took advantage of Wilde not being able to pursue them for fraud or theft or not-paying his royalties. He was thoroughly stripped of his civil liberties and his rights. 

 

And this is where the book was really hard to read. It really shows the change from Wilde being a student, to becoming famous, to falling from grace, to being utterly dependent on the few friends that stayed loyal to him. At the end, there were only two of them. Two.

 

Here are some of the more harrowing passages from the letters to Reginald Turner about Wilde's prison stay:

"17 May 1897 

 

[...] I cannot tell you how good and dear it was of you in my eyes. Other people came forward with promises of large sums of money [...] every one of them has backed out.

   You, dear Reggie, simply and quietly and thoughtfully go and get me a beautiful and

useful thing. You make no noise beforehand: you blow no lying trumpets like Frank Harris: you don't pose as the generous friend: you simply do a sweet kind action, unostentatiously, and you are the only one who has really helped me on my going out. I can't tell you how touched I am: I shall never forget.

 The person who has sent me money to pay for my food and expenses on going out is my dear sweet wife, and you have bought me my travelling bag: and now I want yourself; I want you, if you can, to be ready to meet me when I go out, at Mortimer, a place six miles from here. 

I am ill, and unnerved. Already the American interviewer and the English journalist have arrived in Reading: the Governor of the Prison has just shown me a letter from an American interviewer stating that he will be here with a carriage on Wednesday morning for me, and offering any sum I like if I will breakfast with him! Is it not appalling?

I who am maimed, ill, altered in appearance so that no one can hardly recognise me, broken-hearted, ruined, disgraced - a leper, and a pariah to men - I am to be gibbeted for the pleasure of the public of two worlds!"

Wilde also brought home some of the less apparent issues of the criminal justice system of his day:

"27 May 1897 [to the editor of the Daily Chronicle]

 

Sir, I learn with great regret, through the columns of your paper, that the warder Martin, of Reading Prison, has been dismissed by the Prison Commissioners for having given some sweet biscuits to a little hungry child. 

 

I saw the three children myself on the Monday preceding my release. They had just been convicted, and were standing in a row in the central hall in their prison dress, carrying their sheets under their arms previous to their being sent to the cells allotted to them. I happened to be passing along one of the galleries on my way to the reception room, where I was to have an interview with a friend. They were quite small children, the youngest - the one to whom the warder gave the biscuits - being a tiny little chap, for whom they had evidently been unable to find clothes small enough to fit. I had, of course, seen many children in prison during the two years during which I was myself confined. Wandsworth Prison especially contained always a large number of children. But the little child I saw on the afternoon of Monday the 17th, at Reading, was tinier than any of them. I need not say how utterly distressed I was to see these children at Reading, for I knew the treatment in store for them. The cruelty that is practised by day and night on children in English prisons is incredible, except to those that have witnessed it and are aware of the brutality of the system."

Wilde does not provide any graphic details of the cruelty he experienced, but the change in his outlook on life is very visible. He was a broken man on his release.

 

The last letter in the collection is a letter to Frank Harris in which Wilde begs him to send the money that Harris owes Wilde so he can settle his doctor's bill, and the Epilogue included in this - I have to say it again - magnificent compilation includes the letters between Wilde's last two friends - Reginald Turner and Robert Ross - who both cared for Wilde in his last days as he was dying from meningitis. 

 

Simply heart-breaking stuff.

 

Lastly, I would like make another note about what drew me to this book in the first place - the book was a collaboration between Rupert Hart-Davis and Merlin Holland. 

 

Hart-Davis had previously compiled the first ever major collection of Wilde's letters in 1962, and continued to collect material and letters which he then published in 1985. It is the collaboration with Merlin Holland that, I suspect, adds another level of depth to this particular edition - together with a further 300 letters which Holland was able to add  from Wilde's family estate. For those not in the know, Merlin Holland is Wilde's grand-son. 

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